Personal attacks on Muslim leaders over hijab issue uncalled for: Dr Yaacob Ibrahim

Singapore's Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs has weighed in on an ongoing debate over the Government's rules on wearing of the Muslim headscarf in the public service, calling for mutual respect from all involved. -- BH FILE PHOTO: TUNI SHARIFF
Singapore's Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs has weighed in on an ongoing debate over the Government's rules on wearing of the Muslim headscarf in the public service, calling for mutual respect from all involved. -- BH FILE PHOTO: TUNI SHARIFF

Singapore's Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs has weighed in on an ongoing debate over the Government's rules on wearing of the Muslim headscarf in the public service, calling for mutual respect from all involved.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, in a Facebook post on Thursday, criticised the use of "abusive and disrespectful language", and said the personal attacks on two Muslim leaders were completely uncalled for.

Mufti Dr Fatris Bakaram and his predecessor Shaikh Syed Isa Semait have been criticised online, after their comments in the press and on Facebook on the tuding issue.

It has been in the news since last month, when a polytechnic lecturer asked at a forum on race why nurses were barred from wearing the headscarf.

It sparked a discussion on whether front-line officers in Singapore should be allowed to. An online anonymous petition championing the cause was then posted on Oct 12. It aimed to garner 20,000 signatures, and received 12,405 before being taken down last week.

Dr Yaacob said of the vitriol online: "They will not bring the discussions forward, much less solve any problems.

"Such behaviour reflects badly on those who engage in it. Let us always treat each other with due respect, whether in our own Muslim community or when engaging those belonging to other faiths."

He said that Singaporeans enjoy the freedom of religion but this right also means a responsibility to promote mutual respect and understanding among different religious groups, and to preserve the common space shared by all.

And said while he is glad many employers exercise flexibility and ensure that employees who choose to wear the headscarf are not disadvantaged, some professions require uniforms which do not include the tudung, or hijab.

"Most Muslims recognise that if we allow employees or officers to modify their uniforms for religious reasons, particularly for the police and the military, it would be very problematic," he said.

He then pointed out that Muslim women don the hijab in many situations, including in Parliament, the highest elected chamber in Singapore.